Art as heroic symbolism
The artist Scot Borofsky has much in common with the heroes in Stendhal's novels. Like those adventurous men, Julien and Fabrizio, who tried to take into their arms all of Italy with its fame, wealth and women, Borofsky, with his art, attempts to give us all the symbolic codes of the Americas.
At Lelan Gallery in Springfield, we can see Borofsky's Mountain Series with its beautiful step-lines, hieroglyphics and calligraffiti. To fully understand the immenseness of this body of work, it is paramount to understand the life that Borofsky led during those years in Mexico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
There are two paintings in the Mountain Series exhibit that exemplify Borofsky's vision “of symbolism and poetic reflection.”
The work “Romantic Mountain” is a painting on natural linen which reveals a brown, smooth background, a silver of moon in the left-hand corner, two step-line mountains in the center foreground, and a red seal signature with a half mountain motif edging up from the corner of the right-hand side. The elegance of the “Romantic Mountain” is difficult to ignore because it faces us with a mirror of poetic and philosophical integrity.
Another work called “The Source” is inspired by serapes woven by the Mixtec, a Mexican Indian group residing in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. In “The Source,” the ageless hand of Chinese art comes through clearly and decisively. There are clusters of step-ling mountain images, only this work reveals lovely colors of lavender, turquoise and lime greens that remind me of the Chinese prints with which my mother used to adorn our home when I was a boy. There is also a classical waterfall in the center of this work which is common among traditional Chinese landscapes.
Borofsky is sincere in using patterns and symbolism from the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Yet, he must be careful that he, like all north American artists does not create a stylized copy of another cultural's normal creative vision. What is crucial is that his heroic symbolism becomes integrated into the roots of an American experience.
Like artist Stuart Davis who created a personal style of painting by going to such extremes as setting up a still life and literally nailing it to a table so that he gave himself no choice but to paint it over and over again until his personal style asserted itself in an obsessive way, so does Borofsky seem to create the Mountains Series over and over again by intentionally visiting Pre-Colombian cities in exotic Southern cities in Mexico, Central and South America. Borofsky makes it his plan of attack to nail down the secrets of these ancient ruins at all costs.
He even writes in his artist's statement, “I dodged thieves and threatening soldiers, ...I drank Chicha at an Indian wake and chewed coca at 13,500 feet to stop altitude sickness.”
It was a dangerous quest on Borofsky's part, but, he got away with it and thereby enriched our lives with the memories of his adventures.
Borofsky's adventures in the Americas are political in nature. For instance, he would say to me about Guatemala, “There was a lot of movemiento-political movements. When you took a bus, there was a military check point every seven miles. All the men's Ids were checked and occasionally they would take a young guy off the buss and hassle him.” Years later, he could state to me with a quiet fear, “I saw the military occupying the strategic town of Sacapulas, the people were afraid. You could see the fear of death in their eyes.”
Borofsky told me how we was interrogated by an army captain who asked him why he was there.
“I am a painter, looking for beautiful places to paint!” The captain let him stay, even offering him a bunk to sleep on in the barracks.
Borofsky told me he returned to Guatemala in 1991 and that “I saw a little girl skipping rope in the abandoned military bas at Sacapulas. I was happy to see the soldiers gone, but there are rumors they will return.”
At the end of Stendhal's life, he wrote about a sense of obscurity that could be misinterpreted in his novel, “The Charterhouse of Parmat” “I think such a style is a strain on the reader's attention because it does not provide enough details that are easy to grasp.
Although Borofsky's Mountain Series are somewhat lacking in prose detail, they are rich in deep, colorful poetic nuances that ordinary people have come to love as they would after reading a haiku poem by Japenese poet, Basho. Borofsky's paintings are poetic zones of the heart.
Brattleboro Reformer Nov.17, 1994